40 Glouster, MA to Boothbay, ME

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We poked the short distance from Salem to Glouster and found a gritty commercial fishing port. All along the waterfront major fishing boats hard against fish processing plants rafted off each other. We had thought the fish processing plants would be crumbling old wooden buildings. Instead there were fairly new brick and steel buildings and the overall appearance was well maintained and business like.

We had read The Perfect Storm a few months earlier and it was fun to see places mentioned in the book. The harbormaster commented that the book is bringing in people and that one local person is now conducting a walking tour of places mentioned in the book. We elected to find them on our own, and when we reached the Crows Nest, one of the bars where the people who died on the ship frequented, we went in, looked around and then decided to go somewhere else for lunch. It was a classic crummy bar.

Part of Glouster stands in sharp contrast to the rest of town. One peninsula jutting into the harbor is a working artist colony and the shore is lined with shops selling very expensive paintings, at least we felt the ones priced at $4,000 were a little rich for our blood.

Moving every day, we stopped at Newburyport a small city with a thriving enjoyable downtown. One of our special finds was the desolate island group; Isle of Shoals where we hung on a free mooring. It was good to be away from towns even if it was only for a day. Kennebunkport was every bit the tourist town we expected and expensive. Instead of town, we explored a pretty country road and in our wanderings discovered President Bush’s summer home. He was in residence, but didn’t invite us over for drinks. Portland had found the secret to success; old buildings of their downtown area are now a very active mix of shopping, restaurant, apartments and condos mixed in with some great marine stores. We enjoyed Portland for two days.

And then we saw our first seal. All you could see were two large black eyes, a nose and a shiny head poked out of the water maybe 60 feet away. Our seal seemed to stare us down. We slowed Tranquility and stared back. We seemed to share a mutual interest in each other. Finally the seal blinked and disappeared below the surface without a ripple. We’ve seen the same checking us out repeated a number of times now and love the attention from the seals.

I’m not sure we’ll ever get used to high tides. At Portland, the tidal range is 10 feet. At high tide, the ramp running along a wharf presents a normal scene of pilings sticking 2-3 feet out of the water supporting the wharf. At low tide, the change is dramatic. The wharf then towers 13 feet above you supported on a forest of pilings covered with all sorts of seaweed and marine crustaceans. The once almost level ramp becomes a steep 45 degree incline.

Portland starts the part of the Maine coast that we traveled all the way from the Abacos to see. Looking at a detailed chart there is finger after finger of jagged rock jutting out into the ocean to form an intricate set of channels, bays, nooks and crannies to explore. Just to keep things interesting, the depths are not uniform. The depths drop abruptly from 130 feet to 3 feet. Rocks poke through the surface at random places, some of them are only visible at low tide. It makes navigation a challenge. We pay attention at all times. A mistake on the ICW had some forgiveness built in. If we went aground, it was in sand or mud, and all that was damaged was our pride. Now if we make a mistake, we are at high risk of taking a chunk out of Tranquility’s keel.

We picked Quohog Bay (pronounced Co-hog) as our first anchorage since the Chesapeake many weeks ago. Since then we’ve either been on moorings, or on occasion at a dock. Looking at the chart, and reading the cruising guide we knew care and caution were needed. We poked in, finding the added challenge of having the water surface covered in lobster pot floats. At times the floats seemed to be so thick that you would think the traps were set side by side. We dodged between them and managed to find the navigation marks that at times were difficult to find in the distance because it seemed like we were looking through a forest of floats.

As we pulled into Quohog Bay we immediately knew all the distance we’d traveled was worth the effort. The bay was very calm, sheltered from the normal ocean swells by all the rocky fingers we’d navigated around. The evergreen forest pushed hard against the steep granite rock ledge, which drops 3 to 10 feet to the water. We were seeing the rock bound coast of Maine.

It was high tide and we picked our way carefully to a spot to anchor. As the anchor touched bottom the now instinctive feel was good holding. This was confirmed as we backed down and immediately set the anchor hard and deep. As the noise of the engine died away, the call of osprey and water lapping against the hull became the only sound in this tranquil bay. It was time to relax, enjoy the sight and sounds of osprey circling above their nest high in a dead tree and watch the tide go out. We’d found the rugged craggy coast we’d first loved on Lake Superior. We felt we were back in the kind of scenery and country we’ve enjoyed the most.

Our first project was to watch the tide go out. This can be savored with easy casual reviews as one does other things. Ruth set to work sorting out what excess stuff could be taken off the boat. I went after cleaning the sides and waterline. We both stopped at frequent intervals and marveled at how much the water had dropped. We were surprised to see how big the tiny x on the charts indicating rocks turned into major rocky outcroppings. The wind came up bringing cooling breezes from the ocean. We slept that night with two blankets as the temperature dropped to 55.

Sunrise the next morning convinced us to stay another day. We watched a light fog burn off the now mirror-like bay. The shear smoothness of the water’s surface was broken frequently by common terns. They circle above then dive bomb and crash headlong into the smooth surface. Moments later they appear and seem to take flight without effort while flipping their heads to swallow their fresh caught minnow head first. The terns were our morning entertainment as we had breakfast.

Later that day Jory and Richard on Caribbean Soul came in and anchored nearby. We both went off exploring the small nooks and crannies of the bay in our dinghies. Up close to shore, the conflict between the trees and rocks became evident. The thin soil over the rocks let the trees get a foothold. Some seemed to have slipped, hanging on by the last few portions of their roots as they overhung the rocks. Somehow these tough trees got a new grip and took off growing again. Their hold seemed to be so precarious that it seemed that just a touch would send the tree crashing over the edge into the water. The beauty of the rugged shoreline mingled with the smell of cedars and salt air was over powering.

The next day we reluctantly pulled up anchor and moved on to Boothbay. Had it not been for a wedding we would have stayed for a few more days. Just to keep it interesting, we took a different passage out of the bay. The guidebook describes it as the “white-knuckle route.” The passage between two islands shows a very narrow passage between an unmarked ledge and shore. Depths on the ledge are 3 feet at low tide. There are no navigation marks shown on the charts. We started in dead slow, gained a little confidence by working along the moored boats. People in a dinghy waved and motioned for us to change course. They then came along side and filled us in on how to proceed. Our white-knuckle trip was only 2 white knuckles out of a potential of 4. It was exciting and added new scenery to our memories. As we cleared, another seal surfaced as if to say well done.

Tranquility is now swinging on a mooring in Boothbay harbor. She gets a two-week rest while we take a rental car and head for Rochester, NY and then Detroit.

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